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Nancy Rodriguez, Ph.D. - University of Connecticut. Storrs, CT, US

Nancy Rodriguez, Ph.D. Nancy Rodriguez, Ph.D.

Professor of Nutritional Sciences | University of Connecticut


Nutrition expert, focusing on the relationship between exercise and protein intake


Nancy Rodriguez, a faculty member at the University of Connecticut, Storrs since 1991, is a Professor of Nutritional Sciences in the College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources (CAHNR) with joint appointments in the Departments of Kinesiology and Allied Health Sciences. She directs the Sports Nutrition program at the University and for the Department of Sports Medicine in the Division of Athletics. Dr. Rodriguez served as Chair of University of Connecticut Institutional Review Board for the Use of Human Subjects (IRB) from 2004-2008.

Dr. Rodriguez’s research program focuses on relationships between exercise, protein intake, energy balance, and protein utilization in athletes, physically active adults, and healthy obese and non-obese children. Her work has been published in the American Journal of Physiology, Metabolism, Journal of Nutrition, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, and the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.

Dr. Rodriguez currently teaches sports nutrition, medical nutrition therapy, and the protein component of the graduate course, Macronutrients. She also participates in the department faculty rotation for graduate seminar in nutrition and the undergraduate writing course.

Dr. Rodriguez received her B.S. in Human Nutrition and Foods at Virginia Tech. She earned her MS in nutrition and a PhD in biochemistry at West Virginia University. She spent two years at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN as an NIH Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Endocrinology and Metabolism. Dr. Rodriguez is an active member of the American Society of Nutrition, the American Dietetic Association and its Dietetic Practice Group – Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionists, the American College of Sports Medicine, and the American Physiological Society. In 2014 Dr. Rodriguez was appointed to a 3 year term on the Science Board for the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition.

Areas of Expertise (3)

Protein intake in health obese and non-obese children

Protein intake

Energy balance and protein utilization in athletes

Education (3)

West Virginia University: Ph.D., Biochemistry 1984

West Virginia University: M.S., Nutrition 1980

Virginia Tech: B.S., Nutrition and Human Foods 1978

Affiliations (2)

  • President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition
  • Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise: Associate Editor

Accomplishments (1)

Outstanding Senior Alumni Award (professional)

Awarded by Virginia Tech







IRONMAN Sports Medicine Conference - Dr. Nancy Rodriguez


Media Appearances (9)

How Much Protein You Need to Eat Every Day (Hint: You’re Probably Not Getting Enough)

Men's Journal  online


Despite everything we know about the connection between protein and muscle growth (for the record, protein refers to the amino acids from foods that our bodies require to be healthy and strong but don’t produce intrinsically), it wasn’t until very recently that scientists began to determine just how much protein we should be eating, what types (animal or plant), when (morning or evening), and how much. “Back in the early 1980s, we used to think that if you averaged out your recommended protein intake over a week, you were OK,” says Nancy Rodriguez, Ph.D., a professor of nutritional studies at the University of Connecticut. “But fast-forward 10 years, and we realized it wasn’t just having protein every two or three days. You should be eating it every day and distributing it among meals and snacks.”

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What Should Your Diet Be Like After 50?

AARP  online


The number of calories you need each day drops slightly as you age, yet most people keep eating the same amount of food. The government's dietary guidelines advise that you burn approximately 200 fewer daily calories after age 50. So, if you're a 50-year-old who eats like a 40-year-old, you could gain more than a pound of body fat each month. “It's simple, really,” says Nancy Rodriguez, a professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Connecticut. “If your calorie burn goes down and you don't change the way you eat, then you're going to put on weight."

The Truth About Protein Drinks

Consumer Reports  online


Older adults need more—0.6 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day, or about 90 grams for someone who weighs 150 pounds. It’s needed to help the body heal and help prevent falls. “Protein is especially important in older men and women to maintain existing muscle mass and offset muscle losses [that come] with aging,” says Nancy Rodriguez, Ph.D., R.D., professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Connecticut.

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Should You Get More Protein?

AARP  online


“Muscle supports our skeletal system,” says Nancy Rodriguez, professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Connecticut. “When you combine loss of muscle with loss of bone, you've got the perfect storm to fall and fracture a hip or break an arm." While it's not quite as simple as “eat chicken, get biceps,” getting enough protein in your diet — coupled with physical activity, such as strength training or resistance training — does help you maintain and even regain muscle.

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The Truth About Protein

Family Circle  print


It's best to eat smaller amounts throughout the day and alternate the foods you choose. "We need to consistently deliver essential amino acids to our bodies. These are nutrients we don't make ourselves, so we have to get them from our diet," says Nancy Rodriguez, PhD, RD, professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Connecticut. "You should get a variety at every meal." She suggests women aim for 10 to 15 grams of protein per snack and 20 to 25 grams at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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You Asked: Is It Bad to Exercise on an Empty Stomach?

TIME magazine  online


It’s extra important for older adults over 55 to eat something before exercising—especially when working out first thing in the morning. “Throughout the night, our body makes physiological adjustments so we’re able to survive, and that includes breaking itself down to sustain our blood-glucose levels,” says Nancy Rodriguez, a professor of nutrition sciences at the University of Connecticut. If you exercise in the a.m. before eating, she explains, your body continues to operate in this “break-down state,” which can lead to muscle loss—a concern for many seniors.

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Are These 'Healthy' Foods Really Good for You?

TIME magazine  online


“When you eat protein from whole foods, you get extra nutrients and fiber that contribute to a healthy diet,” says Nancy Rodriguez, professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Connecticut.

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Is Protein Powder Good For You?

TIME magazine  online


In the ways that count most, the answer is no. “I work from a foods-first philosophy,” says Nancy Rodriguez, professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. “There are bioactive ingredients in foods that we can’t duplicate [in a powder], but we know are helpful.”

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This Is How Much Protein You Really Need to Eat in a Day

Health magazine  online


You're very active That means getting at least 35 to 40 minutes of moderate exercise four or five days a week, including resistance training two or more times a week. Consider eating 1.2 to 2 grams of dietary protein per kilogram (or about 0.5 to 0.9 grams per pound) of body weight each day, says Nancy Rodriguez, PhD, professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Connecticut. That amount is best for rebuilding muscle tissue, especially if you do a lot of high-intensity workouts, research suggests.

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Articles (3)

The number of days required for assessing usual nutrient and antioxidant intakes in a sample of healthy college population


2014 The primary aim of this study was to determine the number of days required to assess usual antioxidant intake with a defined level of accuracy in a sample of healthy college students. The secondary aim of this study was to increase the validity of the calculation of days by first determining the prevalence of misreporting energy intake in 30-d food records (FRs).

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Nutrition and Athletic Performance


2010 It is the position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine that physical activity, athletic performance, and recovery from exercise are enhanced by optimal nutrition. These organizations recommend appropriate selection of foods and fluids, timing of intake, and supplement choices for optimal health and exercise performance.

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Increasing Dietary Protein Requirements in Elderly People for Optimal Muscle and Bone Health

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society

2009 Osteoporosis and sarcopenia are degenerative diseases frequently associated with aging. The loss of bone and muscle results in significant morbidity, so preventing or attenuating osteoporosis and sarcopenia is an important public health goal. Dietary protein is crucial for development of bone and muscle, and recent evidence suggests that increasing dietary protein above the current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) may help maintain bone and muscle mass in older individuals. Several epidemiological and clinical studies point to a salutary effect of protein intakes above the current RDA (0.8 g/kg per day) for adults aged 19 and older. There is evidence that the anabolic response of muscle to dietary protein is attenuated in elderly people, and as a result, the amount of protein needed to achieve anabolism is greater. Dietary protein also increases circulating insulin-like growth factor, which has anabolic effects on muscle and bone. Furthermore, increasing dietary protein increases calcium absorption, which could be anabolic for bone. Available evidence supports a beneficial effect of short-term protein intakes up to 1.6 to 1.8 g/kg per day, although long-term studies are needed to show safety and efficacy. Future studies should employ functional measures indicative of protein adequacy, as well as measures of muscle protein synthesis and maintenance of muscle and bone tissue, to determine the optimal level of dietary protein. Given the available data, increasing the RDA for older individuals to 1.0 to 1.2 g/kg per day would maintain normal calcium metabolism and nitrogen balance without affecting renal function and may represent a compromise while longer-term protein supplement trials are pending.

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